Monday, September 21, 2020

Seeking MAN-na in the Desert

Robert Horton with guest in 1959 Wagon Train episode.
I've asked myself why I love westerns so much--Wagon Train, Rawhide, Bonanza, Wanted Dead or Alive, and so forth. I didn't used to. But now I arrange my day to ensure that I can sit down in front of the television at 4 p.m to watch another adventure in the life of that wagon train forever headed west.

These are solid stories that present a serious dilemma that the players must resolve within the hour. In them, deciding the wrong way will have serious repercussions. And if the wagon train crew drag their feet and do nothing, that will end badly, too. The situations call for tough decisions without second-guessing and shillyshallying.  In short, it provides the perfect showcase for truly manly behavior.

This would not be remarkable if we weren't suffering today from a dearth of manliness. Too many men in skinny jeans who know what brow waxing involves. And yes, we can argue that decades of radical feminism have driven men into this androgynous state. Indeed, a study in 2013 caused a stir when it found that women on the Pill felt attracted to less masculine-looking men than did women who were not on it.* Given the massive use of that contraceptive in the U.S. since the early 1960s, this may explain what we're seeing.

But it's high time for real men--there are still some left--to lead the way back. Many women are starved for men who dress like men, walk like men, listen and laugh and display confidence. Men who are willing to take responsibility for their decisions and get on with it. Men who are not afraid to support a wife and children and understand the value of having a family.

A frequent theme in Wagon Train episodes is drought. The train finds itself halfway across a wasteland with another several days still needed to put it behind them, and they've heard there is no water anywhere around. That's how I feel these days about real men. We are decades into this drought of masculinity, and no one knows how far we still need to go to emerge from it.

In the meantime, I advise watching as many westerns as you can. Sit your children down to watch them. Boys need to see what good manliness looks like, and so do our girls. It doesn't matter that we are no longer engaged in the struggle to cross the wilderness and settle the West Coast. These lessons in wisdom vs folly, bravery vs selfishness, patience vs impulsiveness can all be transferred to life in the 21st century. 

Let's get on with being real men and real women. Hitch up that team, strap on your water barrels, and "Wagons, Ho!"

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*More about the study in this Huffington Post article.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Too Many Faces

I recently decided to back away from Instagram. Don't get me wrong--I love sharing good photos, brilliant quotes, and my own electric insights with zillions of people worldwide, or at least my 61 followers.

But I myself follow 32 excellent Instagrammers. Their fine photos and provocative declarations pile up in my feed faster than I can read them. I start to feel that I am falling behind, that I am missing things I should see, should know about. But I have only so much time in a day to scan that Instagram feed.

How do those people feel who attempt to follow 100 folks and more? Like those young people I see hunched over their phones downtown, ignoring the passing parade of real, live people and even the companions sitting on the bench with them, rapidly scrolling through the latest postings. And then there is that haunting hope for just a few more likes and comments to bolster one's sense of worth.

It occurs to me that we were not designed to interact with hundreds of humans per day. At least not electronically. It's different if you are working the cotton candy stand at Coney Island.There you hand a wand of fluffy sugar to a real person. There are smiles and frowns and sticky fingers and small talk and directions on how to find the Tilt-A-Whirl. That job, most of us could handle.

Reading scores or even hundreds of postings a day is different. Each one demands something new from our brain: some analysis, a positive or negative reaction, or a much-needed comment on how wrong the person is. So the user flies along, covering as much virtual ground as possible, touching only lightly here and there.

Rather than getting to know a few people well, we have glancing acquaintanceships with hundreds or even thousands.

And how much do we learn from the time spent scanning and posting on these feeds? Instead of reading a book on early 20th-century photojournalists and the world they revealed, you can just post some touching images you came across of little children in dirty white dresses in front of tenements. What does it mean?

One social media researcher at Lincoln College, Oxford, predicted a baleful result of this activity:  "The mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilised, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity."* 

I ask this question: Would Napoleon have used social media much? I doubt it. He was too busy learning about Egyptian tombs and planning how to take over Europe. Like other towering figures from history, he was focused and he was busy doing things. He did not bother about how many strangers liked his ideas. His sense of identity was by no means shaky. Maybe when I'm tempted to slip back onto social media I'll ask myself, "What would Napoleon do?"

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* https://www.nib.com.au/the-checkup/healthy-living/what-social-media-is-really-doing-to-your-brain

Photo: Marlon Brando as Napoleon with Jean Simmons in Twentieth Century Fox's 1954 film Desiree.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Got a Flag?

If you have an American flag somewhere in your house, now is the time to shake it out and put it on display. 

Amid the frightening upheaval across the country, everyday citizens, homeowners, shop owners, pedestrians and drivers just trying to get somewhere, have been threatened, burned out, and assaulted by violent mobs. Revered statues and monuments to the nation's history have been spray painted, decapitated, and thrown into the harbor by the same mobs. American flags have been yanked off flag poles outside state capitols and burned.

In many cases, the local police have not come to the rescue but have been told to stand down. 

This is the essence of chaos. The assault on order is so shocking that many of us wonder what we can do to push back. 

I suggest we can all start by displaying Old Glory. Whether on your house, your mailbox, your car, your school binder--just let it be seen. It says "I stand for America." We are many, and we must let that be known.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

What's Wrong With Facebook?


As many of you have heard, Facebook has been censoring content for some time. I'm talking about how they set their "fact checkers" to work on posted stories to see if they are accurate, and censor them if they feel the info is misleading.

This is a patently absurd process in the first place. It is rife with bias, in both the singling out of certain postings and in the judgment of fact checkers on what's true and what's not.

Facebook recently deleted the Epoch Times' posting for its new insightful and deeply researched documentary on the origin of the coronavirus. They called it "misinformation." How would Facebook know? Do they have undercover journalists in China digging up the real story? I doubt it. Fortunately, the video is available on Youtube--for now.

Mark Zuckerberg also defended Facebook's censoring of postings by individuals who were putting together a (peaceful) protest of the coronavirus shutdowns in their state. Again, he labeled those postings "misinformation."

Looking back at 2019, Facebook's valiant fact checkers labeled a documentary by the prolife group Live Action as "false," thereby protecting readers from being led astray. Actually, the video, which dispelled the myth that abortions are sometimes a medical necessity, was completely true.

Facebook is engaging in a shocking degree of censorship. We don't need them to tell us what's true and what is not. We can make up our own minds.

I use Facebook almost never. Given this tyrannical behavior, why would I trust them?Why would I want to rub virtual shoulders with them?

My message to Facebook is: Send the fact checkers home. Unless a user is inciting violence, rioting, etc., or trying to post obsene content, leave your users' postings alone.
 
Until they do, you might reconsider how much we should be using their unbalanced platform.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Ignore the Doomsday-ers

I'm not so impressed with Dr. Fauci. I was at first, and no doubt he knows a whole lot about infectious diseases. But just the other day he warned that the country might never get back to where it was before the coronavirus hit because the "threat" of the virus, even if a vaccine is developed, will always be there.

Really? I find it downright irresponsible to tell the public, in a time of pandemic and high anxiety, that the world will never be the same again; meaning, it will never be as good as it was. We'll never be as happy or free or healthy or what-have-you. Dr. Fauci doesn't know that. Neither does anyone else who is forecasting such gloom. Shame on them for this dark forecast--it's the LAST think people need to hear now. 

And it's probably nonsense. America, with its ingenuity and hard work and brilliance, has overcome dire challenges over and over. Not to mention the research and noodling going on around the world at this time. We will beat this virus and be better prepared for the next time some careless (or diabolical) scientist (or evil world power) manages to release a new deadly germ from a biosafety lab somewhere on the globe.

Let's turn off the terrifying talk and instead look forward, with our hard-working countrymen, to what God has ahead for us.
_____
Photo courtesy of CNBC.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Eye Openers in a Plague Year

What some family advocates have been preaching for years is getting put into practice--although not by choice. In the spring of 2020, as the coronavirus spreads across the U.S. and the world, many parents must stay home by order of their employers and their governors. More important, virtually all American children are staying home as both public and private schools lock their doors and post lessons on line.

So families are forced to spend days together, at home. The insidious stress of "following the program," whether in our fast-paced school institutions or workplaces, is suspended. 

With most amusements and activities closed, from ballet lessons to soccer practice, families are finding new ways to entertain themselves and to play. As restaurants close their dining rooms, parents dust off pots and pans and cookie sheets and make more of their own food.

A few days ago I heard about a recent study (sorry, I failed to write down the source) that found--imagine!--that a vast majority of children surveyed enjoyed being home. This has always been true for children, especially the young ones. But it has gotten buried by parents' need or desire to hold down jobs and enrich their children with sports, music, and a host of other scheduled activities.

Consider the relief of the child who, with his preschool closed and his mother working from home, wakes up in the morning to see the sun up, rather than the predawn darkness of the early hour when he is usually woken up to get started. Now he can get up and eat his breakfast slowly, decide on his clothes for the day, change his mind and redress himself, talk to each of his stuffed monkeys in turn and arrange them by size on his bookshelf. Later on his mother makes lunch and, to his wonderment, she sits down and eats with him.

Consider the relief of the middle school student when she realizes that she can wear the outfit that the mean girls made fun of--they won't see her at home. She can do her lessons in her own time and not rush from class to class, trying to work in a few minutes to slip into the girls' restroom when she can't put it off any longer. And she can ask her father for help with geometry because he is home a lot more now.

Indeed, families are finding that there is time to sleep in a little, time to teach children how to make a bed, and time for them to do it each morning. There is time to all go for a bike ride, learn to set the table, look at old family pictures, and read stories.

With all the damage this vicious virus is wreaking upon our country, upon many families, let us learn what it might teach us from our new circumstances. Let's keep our eyes and our minds open to lessons we can take forward when the virus falls behind.